The Rage Against Globalization Shows Up In the Voting Booth

The Rise of Populism in Germany

The past decade has seen a steady rise of mainstream populism across the political landscape in many western societies. One common theme among these movements seems to be a rejection of, or at least a significant skepticism of, economic globalization and a propensity for protectionist thinking. The election of the AfD as the third strongest party to the German parliament during the 2017 federal elections shows that this trend is as real for one of the most globally interconnected economies, as it is in the United Kingdom or the United States.There are, of course, good reasons for engaging in international trade like avoiding local scarcities, as well as, product specialization. The resulting optimized allocation of scarce production factors benefits all the economies involved.

Measuring the Effects of Trade on Voting

Analyzing the regression of trade exposure* on the voter share for the AfD in the 2013 and 2017 elections, we saw that:

  • Higher trade exposure through import penetration did indeed lead to a statistically significant increase in voter share for the AfD party during the last two German elections.
  • Most notably affected was the German labor party SPD, which consistently lost significant vote shares in districts facing higher levels of import penetration.
  • At the same time, a significant effect of trade exposure on the vote shares of traditional German right-wing parties like the NPD, as previously found by academic literature studying German data prior to the formation of the AfD, could not be found anymore.

The Road to Working Policy Solutions

It is important to remember that our paper only examines the negative side of trade exposureby looking specifically at the impact of low-wage import penetration in Germany. Germany does, after all, boost a significant trade surplus and so it does stand to reason that more electoral districts in Germany profit from the positive and job-creating effects of export exposure, than suffer from the negative impact of import penetration.



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Global & European Dynamics

Global & European Dynamics

Our mission on this blog is to shed light on Europe’s role in the world economy.